Thin Ice
March 5, 2006 1:19 PM   Subscribe

The Coming Meltdown. The incredible story of Lonnie Thompson - West Virginia conservative, world-class mountaineer, glaciologist, and leading climatologist who first told Congress the world is heating up in 1988, "the moment at which the greenhouse era really began".
posted by stbalbach (16 comments total)
Is this guy who was on Coast to Coast with Art Bell last night?
posted by keswick at 2:02 PM on March 5, 2006

I love how Drudge still puts the scare quotes around phrases like "Climate Change" and "Global Warming".

I'll risk embarassing myself by revealing my age here, but I remember watching films in science class in grade 4 about acid rain, and something called "The Greenhouse Effect". That was back in 73. So '88 might have been the moment the greenhouse era began, but there was definitely a long prologue.
posted by slatternus at 2:12 PM on March 5, 2006

Al Gore's movie (and apparently book as well), "An Inconvenient Truth" will be coming out in May. Gore has been giving a series of speeches on global warming for some years now, and this is the film version of those speeches.

I recommend it.

Unfortunately, today's Doonesbury sums up how science works these days.
posted by jellicle at 2:13 PM on March 5, 2006

I've been hearing that it started back in the mid-1800s, bec of the Industrial Revolution and all the accompanying pollution--is that true at all? (and does it matter when it started, if we all know it's happening and needs to be reduced if not fixed?)
posted by amberglow at 2:24 PM on March 5, 2006

when anthopogenic climate change started isn't a very enlightening debate - some reckon that with clearing of land for agriculture, which started 6 000 years ago, we started modifying the climate. But recognition of of the greenhouse potential of carbon dioxide, and humans produciton of this gas, goes well back to the 19th century.

Saying that Lonnie Thompson's warning to Congress in 1988 started the ball rolling would be a particularly american political class centred view of the world (ie wrong). But hey, kudos to the guy for raising the profile of the issue.
posted by wilful at 2:40 PM on March 5, 2006

and does it matter when it started, if we all know it's happening

That's kind of the problem though. A huge percentage of people refuse to believe it's happening. I refer you to Instapundit, Michelle Malkin, or any number of conservative bloggers you have the stomach to peruse.

And then there's people who just don't care, and will take up arms before they pay for Kyoto as a tax at the gas pumps.
posted by slatternus at 2:50 PM on March 5, 2006

The quote is from the first link, which is fairly long, but is the heart of the FPP. I suppose you'd have to read the article to understand it, sorry.
posted by stbalbach at 3:08 PM on March 5, 2006

Of course, if you'd really read the article, it was James Hansen that was testifying before Congress in 1988, not Lonnie Thompson.
posted by wilful at 3:29 PM on March 5, 2006

That was the moment at which the greenhouse era really began....

With large government funding that was partly made available because of Hansen's warnings, the panels of experts soon had a vast collection of studies and computer models to pore over.

Essentially, this is the climate science version of "During my service in the United States Congress I took the initiative in creating the Internet".

That is, the point seems to be that Hansen's testimony made global warming a legitimate topic for government funding, which opened a normally very conservative money spigot. The presence of American money in the pot made a global climate community feasible.

Sure, much of what came about would have happened anyway, eventually. But in context these are not exceptional claims.
posted by dhartung at 5:59 PM on March 5, 2006

man I really messed that one up. Thompson/Hansen. The book "Thin Ice", which the article is (mostly) about, is about Thompson, who is really fascinating. I'll make up for this fubar post with something decent tomorrow.
posted by stbalbach at 6:36 PM on March 5, 2006

We're doomed.

Yay! I don't have to quit smoking!

/frivolity, resume stern-faced head-shaking at short-sighted gas-guzzling American wastrels killing the only planet we have
posted by BitterOldPunk at 7:26 PM on March 5, 2006

Qori Kalis Glacier, Peru — 1978-2004. From The Ice Plant Cometh:
Thompson has witnessed our current warming first-hand. Since 1978, he has snapped near-yearly terrestrial photographs of the cap’s largest outlet glacier, Qori Kalis. (Click here to watch Qori Kalis melt.) During each expedition, he spots more bedrock that has been exposed and lakes swelling or appearing out of nowhere. He sees newly freed boulders perched on crests of gravelly moraines, the piles of rocky debris left behind by the retreating wall of ice. The soundtrack to every trip is the constant drip, splash, trickle, and rush as ice turns quickly into water.

From his data, Thompson has determined that 20 percent of the ice he measured at Qori Kalis and Quelccaya as a whole in 1978 has since melted. “In the first measurement period, which was from the first aerial photographs of 1963 until our photographs in 1978, the terminus of Qori Kalis was retreating at a rate of about 4.7 meters per year,” he says. “From about 2000 to 2002, that rate had increased to over 200 meters per year, or over 40 times faster.”
U.S. Electricity Net Generation — Fossil Fuels (via):
1978 ... 1,646.2 billion kilowatt-hours
2004 ... 2,687.4 billion kilowatt-hours
So are we ready to turn off the lights (and these computers) yet?
posted by cenoxo at 8:10 PM on March 5, 2006

Fuck, no! We'll just crank the motherfuckin' AC!
posted by keswick at 8:51 PM on March 5, 2006

Anynone who has watched ice melt knows it melts faster at the end of the process than the beginning. Yes Dorothy this is the very itty bitty tail end of the ice age. We just haooen to be here to witness it.
posted by Muirwylde at 8:56 PM on March 5, 2006

waitaminute! A conservative who cares about the environment!?
*Head asplodes*

Heh. I remember when us folks were called conservationists. Now we’re
posted by Smedleyman at 9:43 AM on March 6, 2006

So are we ready to turn off the lights (and these computers) yet?

I've read that all our appliances and computers and everything now actually are still sucking electricity even when they're turned off--is that so? and why is that? was it always that way?
posted by amberglow at 7:17 AM on March 7, 2006

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